Acton can be proud of this well-attended Pride Fest

June 21, 2024
Five women posing in the sun. Four of the women are wearing Helen Roper costumes -- Curly red wigs, bright kaftans, and chunky jewelry. The 5th woman is wearing a straw hat and sunglasses, as befits the perfect weather.
The author (second from left) poses with “Helen Roper x 4” (aka Sabrina Vigna, Jill Maxwell, Stacy Keller, and Debra O’Connell Brunelle). Photo: Courtesy of "Helen Roper"

On Saturday June 15, at NARA Park in North Acton, rainbows were in abundance despite the clear blue sky with nary a single cloud. The second annual Pride Fest, organized by the Acton Recreation Department, welcomed the Town of Westford this year to join in the family-friendly celebration of LGBTQ+ belonging, culture and civil rights.

Melissa Settipani-Rufo, Acton’s Recreation Director, noted that it’s important to share the history of Pride. “We hold this event to remember the Stonewall Riots that happened in New York City in the month of June, 1969. These were trans women fighting for their rights. We remember this event to help people feel they can come out and feel accepted in their community.”

Several community organizations set up booths and tables to share resources with the public. Common Ground, the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) of the Acton Boxborough Regional High School, offered t-shirts and buttons. The GSA from Westford was also represented. The Greater Boston PFLAG chapter, an organization that offers support, education and advocacy for “parents, families and friends of lesbians and gays” was sharing information at a table as well.

Eighteen booths were set up at the NARA Park Amphitheater for Acton Westford Pride 2024. Photo: Melissa Settipani-Rufo

White-topped booths line the area around the NARA park stage on a sunny day. There are people milling around, walking fro booth to booth.
Eighteen booths were set up at the NARA Park Amphitheater for Acton Westford Pride 2024. Photo: Melissa Settipani-Rufo

In addition to information about the organization, attendees who visited the League of Women Voters – Acton Area booth were offered a voting opportunity: a ballot asking them to select their favorite cartoon character. The winner, Spiderman, was announced later on the League’s FaceBook page, with Bluey coming in a close second. Local houses of worship were well represented with the Church of the Good Shepherd, UCC Boxborough, Acton Congregational Church, and Congregation Beth Elohim all hosting booths.

Open Door Theater had several costume pieces for attendees to try on, and they provided information about their upcoming production, “The Prom, School Edition.” Auditions will be held in December of this year with performances are scheduled for March, 2025. The Acton Boxborough United Way (ABUW) was also on hand with a community survey, information about the Acton Boxborough Resource Center, and an interactive Tulip Garden, a paper version of the ABUW’s Hope Gardens planted around town.

Town of Acton staff from the Library, Conservation, Health and Community Services tabled as well. Visitors could sign up for a library card, make a colorful beaded bracelet, browse a number of books from the library’s collection, and take home a bookmark, button, frisbee, or pen.

Two women and a man stand under a booth in front of a large Acton Arboretum poster.
Community Services Director Laura Ducharme, Health and Family Services Director Penny Funaiole, and Land Stewardship Coordinator Ian Bergemann staffed the Town of Acton booth. Photo: Alissa Nicol

Ian Bergemann, Acton’s Land Stewardship Coordinator, had a poster on display featuring examples of diverse expressions of gender and sexuality in nature. Bergemann pointed out, “The diversity of gender and sexual behaviors in nature contributes to the stability and resilience of ecosystems. Diverse social structures can enhance cooperation and resource-sharing which are essential for the survival of many species.”

Throughout the three-hour afternoon event, revelers enjoyed musical performances by The Femmes band and Chichi Enu, Acton’s artist-in-residence for the month of June. Enu will be performing in another event at NARA on Friday, June 21, “Untold Stories,” an interactive opera concert featuring the work of BIPOC youth artists. Free tickets can be reserved for this event here.

In the center of the circle created by the tents and the performance stage was a gaggle of gals, and one guy, dressed in brightly colored caftans, sporting fiery wigs of corkscrew curls, oversized sunglasses, and bold, beaded necklaces. These costumed celebrants connected with their inner Helen, better known as Mrs. Roper, a character on the 1970s sitcom “Three’s Company” and its spin-off, “The Ropers.”

Dianne Spoto, who organized the group of Ropers, when Pride Fest was announced via social media, said, “Helen Roper was one of the first open allies in modern media and a fantastic gay icon—she was sassy, smart, open-minded/hearted, and embraced sexuality. She was a strong supporter of the ‘kids’ living in the apartment below her, and was a protector from her husband and judgmental rule-enforcer, Stanley.”

One of the Ropers, Debra O’Connell Brunelle, shared, “I loved feeling like we contributed to the joy, fun and spirit of celebration and inclusion of the event. Everyone who came up to us was smiling, even when they didn’t know who we were dressed as. A perfect day!”

Alissa Nicol is the Community Events beat reporter for the Acton Exchange.


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